THE under-threat library at Kingsclere could close unless a team of volunteers are prepared to take on the running of, and fundraising for, the facility.
A parish council meeting held in Kingsclere on Monday evening heard that a community group would have to pick up the tab for the rent of the premises, telephone line, insurance, heating and lighting and public liability costs if they took over the running over the library, in George Street.
Councillor Janet Bond told the meeting that staff at the library had agreed to support, and help, the volunteers with fundraising for a year, but after that, they would be “on their own”.
She said activities such as coffee mornings would have to fund the library, estimating the annual costs to be £2,000 for rent, £500 for electricity, £250 for public liability and additional costs for broadband and telephone services.
As reported in The Gazette, the library is one of three classed as “under-used” in Hampshire, and these have been earmarked for possible closure by the county council, which needs to cut library service spending by 12 per cent over the next year.
Speaking to the parish council, Cllr Keith Chapman, Hampshire’s executive member for culture and recreation and county councillor for Calleva and Kingsclere, said: “I never thought when I took this job, I would be addressing yourselves about the library in Kingsclere.”
He spoke of the difficult decisions he has to make as a result of the budget cuts, and told councillors that the library, which costs the council around £22,500 a year to run, including staffing costs, only attracts around 530 visitors a year.
He added that other communities which have taken on the running of their libraries have been successful and added: “I do feel some of these small libraries should be run by communities.”
Another option would be the introduction of a mobile library, but these have also been under-used in other areas of the county and are themselves under review by the county council.
Cllr Alan Denness, chairman of the parish council, said the financial implications for any community take-over would have to be carefully considered before the council lent their moral support to volunteers willing to take on the challenge.
A formal 90-day consultation on the future of the library will begin in February.